Lawmakers slam Obama after Iran convicts US journalist

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GOP lawmakers are renewing their criticism of the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran, following the news that Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian has been convicted in an espionage trial there.

The decision to convict Rezaian of an unidentified crime is further proof that the landmark international accord was rife with flaws, multiple members of Congress said on Monday.

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“At every step, there has been absolutely no transparency in Jason's so-called trial. His sentencing is another sham step in a sham process,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said in a statement.

“The administration didn’t get Jason released when it had the leverage of the nuclear agreement,” he added. “It must redouble efforts to get Jason and the other imprisoned Americans home now.” 

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) went further to link the verdict with the nuclear deal.

The same government that has “tortured, abused, and wrongly convicted” Rezaian “will be trusted to inspect itself under a nuclear deal that will give Iran legitimacy and billions in cash,” he claimed.

“President Obama’s gamble that a nuclear deal would lead to a more responsible Iran has already failed,” he said.

Separately, GOP Reps. Peter Roskam (Ill.), Lee Zeldin (N.Y.) and Mike Pompeo (Kan.) said that the “sham conviction of an innocent American” showed Iran’s “true colors.”

“We urge the Obama administration not to lift any economic sanctions until Iran vacates this absurd judgment and releases all four Americans wrongly imprisoned by Iran,” the three said in a statement. “It is disgusting to reward a country that so brazenly violates international law and abuses our fellow citizens.”

Roskam, Zeldin and Pompeo have been among the most critical of the Obama administration agreement with Iran.

The imprisonment of Rezaian and other Americans in Iran has long been a target for U.S. critics of the Iran deal, which sets limits on Tehran’s ability to build a nuclear weapon in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions on its oil and financial sectors.

In addition to Rezaian, Iran has also imprisoned Christian pastor Saeed Abedini and former Marine Amir Hekmati. CIA contractor Robert Levinson went missing eight years ago, and Iran is believed to have knowledge of his whereabouts.

Despite the pressure from some corners of Congress, the agreement was silent on the fates of the four Americans.

The administration has said that extending the nuclear talks to include their freedom would have given additional leverage to Iran. 

Earlier this year, President Obama was visibly agitated when a reported asked why he was “content” with leaving the Americans in jail. 

"The notion that I am content, as I celebrate, with American citizens languishing in Iranian jails?" Obama told the journalist at the time.

“That's nonsense. And you should know better.”

It is unknown which charges Rezaian was convicted of, though state television said he was guilty of at least one of four charges.

He has been in prison in Iran for 14 months.

Officials in the Obama administration and at The Post have said that Iran’s charges are unfounded.   

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has suggested that Iran might be open to a prisoner swap to free Rezaian and the other Americans, though the White House has done little to suggest that such an agreement might be forthcoming. 

--This report was updated at 2:54 p.m.